Hilary Larson's travel tales and tips.

Jewish Culture On The Continent

Travel Writer

Every year in early September, European cities explode in Jewish festivity as they simultaneously celebrate the European Day of Jewish Culture. From Bulgaria to Belgium, Norway to Luxembourg, Jewish art, music and food are in the spotlight.

But it doesn’t end there. In fact, throughout the chilly days of fall, cities across North-Central Europe host Jewish cultural festivals that go beyond mere street fairs to showcase finely curated klezmer, cinema and more.

Munich’s Jewish Center, which ushered in a new era for Bavarian Jews when it opened in 2007. Hilary Larson

Berlin: Germany’s Urbane Option

Travel Writer

Nobody goes to Berlin for the weather.

On my first visit to Germany’s sprawling capital, I spent three weeks without a single glimpse of the sun. True, it was January. But even in August, Berlin often drizzles while other northern latitudes bathe in evening sunshine. “Would it be too much to ask,” one acquaintance sighed, “to see the sun once in a whole week — just once?”

A picturesque street in the Friedrichshain District.

Tips For The Italy Odyssey

Travel Writer

 It’s August, and just like every year, a good third of the travelers I know are doing the classic Italy triangle: Venice, Florence and Rome.

They have plenty of company, recession notwithstanding. Italy’s three most popular cities are all singularly stunning, brimming with unrivaled art and culture — in short, this itinerary is popular for good reason.

Is a gondola ride in Venice a must-do? Finding a personal angle on your Italian vacation will pay off. Hilary Larson

Teaneck’s Youth Movement

Modern Orthodox twenty- and thirty-somethings carving out their niche in established community.

Special To The Jewish Week

 The Bergen County suburbs of Teaneck, Englewood and Paramus, N.J., have lured generations of Jewish families with a wealth of attractions — great schools, pretty tree-lined streets, terrific shopping and an unbeatable location, just over the George Washington Bridge from Manhattan.

Teaneck is a lure for young couples, many from Manhattan, looking to raise families.

A Caribbean Alternative

Travel Writer

The best time of year to visit Florianopolis is summertime — which, in this idyllic corner of southern Brazil, starts sometime between Halloween and Thanksgiving.

That’s when a mild, pleasant spring gives way to the glorious Miami-like weather and spectacular sunsets that make this one of South America’s most popular resorts. For North Americans, Florianopolis offers an appealing alternative to the Caribbean: a winter escape to a land of wide, sandy beaches, sparkling lagoons and green mountains, wrapped in an affordable package of cultural exoticism.

Preparing for a winter getaway: The beach and a street market in Florianopolis. Photos by Hilary Larson

Diversity On The Hudson

A tolerant, inclusive vibe defines Riverdale.

Special To The Jewish Week

 There are plenty of Jewish neighborhoods around New York where the community tends toward a certain religious outlook, a predominant level of observance or a majority ethnic leaning.

And then there is Riverdale. Leafy and elegant, its stately Tudors and postwar high-rises perched along the banks of the Hudson, this corner of the northwest Bronx is cherished by residents for its religious and ethnic diversity — both within and outside of the Jewish community.

Conservative Synagogue Adath Israel has seen a rise in membership of late. Michael Datikash

A Mediterranean Switzerland?

Travel Writer

Just a few hours’ drive east from Venice, one of the most-visited places in Europe, lies a magical land that few Americans ever consider: Slovenia. 

While Europeans have discovered Slovenia in droves, there are reasons for its obscurity among us Yanks. Slovenia’s capital, Ljubljana, is hard to pronounce — Lyoo-blee-YAH-na — and impossible to spell. Many of us secretly sympathized with President Bush when he confused Slovenia with Slovakia, another country that didn’t exist when most of us learned geography.

A panorama of Piran, above. Photos by Hilary Larson

Cape Of Good Calm

Travel Writer

My mother always counseled us not to have a nervous breakdown in August. “That’s when all the psychiatrists go on vacation,” she explained. If you needed medical guidance in the month before Labor Day, she added, your best shot was to hang out on the beaches of Cape Cod and the Islands, because that’s where they all went.

For those who like a relaxing setting, Cape Cod has it. But the area also is home to a flourishing arts scene.

High Art, Low Stress

Travel Writer

There’s something about the sight of snowy peaks that instantly cools you off, even in the midst of a long, hot summer. 

Whether wandering around the stately red-brick buildings of downtown Denver or prowling its pretty Victorian neighborhoods, one never loses sight of the shimmering Rockies that make the Mile-High City so picturesque. Amid the bright, clear mountain sunshine, Colorado’s capital offers a breezy, verdant summer retreat, along with plenty of culture to fill the non-skiing months.

Clash of styles: Denver’s Union Station, top, is part of the gentrified LoDo section. Above, Daniel Libeskind’s modernist Denver

In Summer, Culture Heads Outdoors

Travel Writer

Barcelona may be famous for its elegant and surrealistic architecture, but in summertime all the action is out of doors.

The city has its interior pleasures too, of course, but its museums take second place compared to the allure of its beaches, parks and neighborhoods adorned with Gaudi buildings. (Madrid, in contrast, is an indoor city the way New York is: its top sites are museums, and I once spent a half-hour vainly searching for a park — even just a shady bench — to enjoy a picnic lunch.) 

The castle in the Parc de la Ciutadella.
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